Not long after her birthday, The Child gets sick – so sick, she has to back out of the school play, missing everything but the final performance, and then leaving before the cast party. When she recovers, we spend our evenings going over all her class assignments.
Did this get turned into math? Where are you on your science project? These are the questions I ask that fill her evenings.
It quickly becomes clear that she’s not just catching up on work she missed when she was sick, but perhaps a little bit from before she got sick … perhaps, quite a bit from then. I try to help her organize, and get back on track, but things keep popping up. She has to create a book cover for history class, she remembered. Oh! And also, she has to bring in food for class. In two days.
She’s pleased she remembered so far ahead of time. Roman food, she says. It’s for history class.
I wonder if this is my assignment or hers, but decide that her part of the assignment is probably complete now: she remembered to tell me before we got in the car to drive to school the day it was needed. I scan through my shelf and find two Italian cookbooks, my beloved Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, and another one, De Medici Kitchen, by Lorenza de Medici, now out of print, and which I bought for fifty cents at a thrift shop not long ago. (You can get used copies for not much on Amazon).
I start by looking for a recipe that says it’s Roman, but nothing pops out – at least, nothing that is suitable for a middle school history class toga party. So I fudge it a little, and settle instead on a simple Tuscan recipe that I think the kids will like, and which doesn’t involve refrigeration, unusual ingredients, or a trip to the store.
The Pinolata cake from De Medici Kitchen is incredibly simple – just a butter cake accented with pine nuts. I was surprised when I mixed all the ingredients and realized the recipe included no vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg. Just butter, flour, sugar – and not very much sugar at that. The resulting cake is a bit dry and very buttery tasting: The perfect thing to serve alongside a cup of coffee or tea, or to accompany fresh fruit.
I liked it so much that I hated to send it off to school for the kids, but send it I did. It’s simple enough to make any time I want more.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup pine nuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
- In another bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Then add the flour mixture. The dough should be quite soft.
- Butter a loaf pan and dust with flour. Pour the dough into the pan and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.
- Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack before serving.